If you like your holidays to include a healthy mix of history, culture, shopping, eating out, adventure and time spent in nature, Staffordshire is well worth a visit.
This West Midlands county in the heart of England has something for everyone to enjoy. It’s rich in unique heritage and famed for its pottery industry, so you’ll find factories, museums, shops and workshops scattered across the county. It’s surrounded by beautiful countryside too, with scenic valleys, lakes and a generous portion of the Peak District within its boundaries. And thrill-seekers will love that it’s home to not one but two of the UK’s best theme parks. On top of that, Staffordshire is easily reachable from all four corners of the UK. If you’re already daydreaming about your trip, read on for some inspiration on the best places to visit and things to do here.
Staffordshire’s largest city, Stoke-on-Trent, is known as the world capital of ceramics. It’s been shaped by its centuries-long pottery history and with so much to see, do and learn here, it’s a must visit destination for ceramics and history lovers alike.
Wedgwood is probably one of the most famous pottery manufacturers in the world - and here you can learn all about its 250-year history and view its most important pieces, including the iconic V&A Wedgwood Collection. With a fascinating museum, factory tour, flagship store, factory shop, design and craft studios (where you can have a go yourself), luxury tea room and children’s play area, you could easily spend the whole day here. It’s the ultimate experience for Wedgwood enthusiasts.
Located in a Victorian pottery factory, Gladstone Pottery Museum offers a captivating insight into Stoke’s history. You can watch demonstrations, see traditional skills and try your hand at throwing or decorating your own pot. And there’s a gift shop and cafe where you can enjoy some refreshments in the picturesque courtyard. Fans will be excited to hear that it’s the filming location for Channel 4’s Great Pottery Throwdown too! Just make sure you check the museum’s website for opening times before your visit because it closes for months at a time during filming.
Built in 1888, Middleport Pottery is the last working pottery in the UK and still produces its iconic ‘Burleigh’ ware using traditional methods. Explore the visitor centre to learn all about its history, see the potters in action on a factory tour and marvel at the huge grade II listed bottle kiln and the displays in the Burleigh showroom. Finish your visit with a stop in the cafe for some wholesome food overlooking the canal. If it looks familiar at first glance that could be because earlier seasons of The Great Pottery Throwdown were filmed here, too.
Founded in 1985, Emma Bridgewater is an iconic modern pottery brand known for its quality earthenware and hand-painted thoughtful messages. The factory on the outskirts of the city centre offers a lovely day out, where you can take a tour to peak behind the scenes, browse the shelves in the colourful shop and paint your own piece in the decorating studio. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a relaxed lunch or afternoon tea in the beautiful Kitchen Cafe or outside in the secret garden, served on Emma Bridgewater tableware, of course.
If you’d like to participate in a more in-depth workshop or enhance your skills at a masterclass, visit LoveClay at Valentine Clays headquarters. This new facility is committed to showcasing the importance of clay and the ceramics industry to the city, with a gallery, exhibition space and workshops. It’s a hub of activity with something for all abilities too, from ‘Throw a pot’ sessions for beginners, to 2 day intermediate courses, to professional masterclasses for more accomplished potters.
Days out in nature
The southwestern reaches of this beautiful national park make up a part of Staffordshire, and from gentle rolling hills to rugged rocky outcrops, there’s a spectacular variety of scenery as well as idyllic villages (some of which are the highest above sea level villages in the UK!). As you might expect, there are plenty of wonderful walks to choose from in the Peak District including a five-and-a-half-mile circuit around The Roaches, a favourite destination of climbers and hikers. Take a look at the routes here.
Cannock Chase Forest is managed by Forest England and located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It offers all kinds of outdoor activities to enjoy all year round amongst its stunning woodland landscape. There are walking trails and cycling routes (with options to hire bikes), as well as a Go Ape course, play areas, and even a dog activity trail. If you still want more, Chasewater Lake is nearby too where you can go sailing, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, canoeing or zorbing.
Dimmingsdale, near Stoke-On-Trent
One of Staffordshire’s hidden gems, the stunning Dimmingsdale Valley is the perfect place to enjoy a tranquil walk and practice some mindfulness in nature. It was once owned by the Earl of Shrewbury but is now a site of special scientific interest, with dramatic sandstone outcrops and wonderful wildlife to discover. Follow the old carriage tracks and you might be lucky enough to spot kingfishers, pine martens, hares, tawny owls, little owls and more along the way.
Alton Towers Resort, Stoke-On-Trent
One of the biggest and most popular theme parks in the country, Alton Towers is a must-visit for adventurous families. It’s set in 500 acres of Staffordshire countryside and has over 50 rides and attractions, from adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters to CBeebies Land for little ones. There’s a water park too, and special events throughout the year such as Scarefest for Halloween. Members of the family who prefer things a little slower-paced can enjoy crazy golf or a cable car ride with amazing views across the park.
Drayton Manor Resort, Tamworth
Drayton Manor is another of the UK’s fantastic theme parks, and a fun-filled day out for people of all ages. It’s smaller in size than Alton Towers but there’s still over 100 rides, roller coasters and attractions here for families and thrill-seekers alike, as well as a 4D cinema, a zoo, a dinosaur trail and, popular with smaller children, Thomas Land inspired by Thomas and all his tank engine friends.
Trentham Estate, Trentham
Home to Trentham Gardens, Trentham Monkey Forest, Treetop Adventures and Trentham Shopping village, this estate has something special for all kinds of interests. Animal-lovers will especially enjoy the Monkey Forest, a sanctuary for endangered Barbary Monkeys, where you can walk amongst the free-roaming primates on a forest pathway. And if you’re looking for a peaceful spot for a stroll or a picnic afterwards, be sure to visit the breathtaking manicured Trentham Gardens. There are fairy trails and an adventure playground that children will love too.
Historic landmarks & attractions
Stafford Castle, Stafford
Stafford Castle has been a prominent part of the Stafford skyline since its construction by the Normans in 1100AD. And after some recent restoration work it’s considered one of the best surviving examples of Norman earthworks in the country. Admission is free to all visitors, where you can explore the site, take in the incredible views from the top of the hill, watch films about the castle’s history and even try on armour and joust with weapons. There’s a diverse programme of events too, from historical reenactments to Shakespearean plays.
Lichfield Cathedral, Lichfield
This treasured landmark in the city of Lichfield is the only medieval three-spired cathedral in the UK. There’s over 1300 years of history to explore here, including medieval wall paintings and windows made from famous Herkenrode stained glass. The Close surrounding the cathedral has picturesque gardens to wander, and on the nearby Vicar’s Close you’ll find quintessential medieval houses for a real glimpse into old England.
Churnet Valley Railway, Froghall
The Churnet Valley Railway takes you back to the 1950s and ‘60s on a heritage steam train ride. Soak up the nostalgia and relive the classic days of railway travel as you journey through Staffordshire’s scenic hidden valley known as ‘Little Switzerland’, with views of beautiful moorland and the Caldon Canal. If you fancy a three course lunch along the way, choose the First Class dining carriage! At the Cheddleston Station stop you can visit the museum too, where you’ll learn all about the railway days-gone-by. At Christmas time you can even ride on The Polar Express... a truly magical experience!
This charming historic market town in the Peak District is clustered around a cobbled market square, and as well as a fascinating history, has a reputation for its unique shopping. It’s most famous for its frequent markets, including an antique market every Saturday, a Fine Food Market every third Sunday of the month and ‘Totally Locally’ every first Sunday, a market that champions shopping locally and supporting small businesses. There are plenty of lovely permanent shops and independent boutiques too, as well as some award-winning tea rooms.
Heart of the Country Village, Lichfield
This aptly named shopping village is in the middle of the countryside just outside of Lichfield. It’s not your typical shopping destination, but rather an eclectic collection of independent shops and eateries housed in 19th century converted farm buildings. With fashion and homeware boutiques to browse, it’s a lovely place to pick up something special to remember your trip. There’s also a peaceful woodland walk and a fairy trail here, to keep children occupied or let your dog let off some steam.
Stone, an old market town north of Stafford, is a wonderful place to shop small and meet local makers in the community. Wander along the canalside to discover all kinds of creative independent shops from fashion boutiques to pet stores. There’s a monthly Farmer’s Market and a regular Crafts & Collectables market too. Plus Stone has a great selection of independent cafes and restaurants to refuel after a few hours of retail therapy.
Food & drink
The Duncombe Arms, Ellastone
This traditional country pub-restaurant is on the edge of the Peak District nestled amongst pretty countryside in the village of Ellastone. It serves classic and modern fine-quality food - expect the likes of ‘Pan roasted duck breast’, ‘Grilled sole with lemon & parsley butter’ and ‘Seaweed roasted Charlotte potato’. The recently renovated, characterful interiors are complete with flagstone floors and open fires, making for an especially welcoming atmosphere in the cooler months.
With a self-proclaimed ‘All flavour, no pomp’ menu, Larder is all about relaxed, ingredient-led dining in a cosy-chic environment. On the dinner menu you’ll find quality burgers, steaks and modern British classics with international influences, plus hearty roasts on Sundays. Or for something a little more exclusive you could try their Kitchen Table experience, where you’ll sample seven delicious courses with optional wine pairings.
The Post House, Stafford
This bar and grill in Stafford town centre is in an iconic 18th century post house building, restored to its former glory with a modern twist and plush interiors. It’s a great spot to enjoy an evening out, whether you’re after dinner and wine or just a couple of cocktails. They’ve also got afternoon tea menus, Sunday lunch, a good kid’s menu and extensive gluten-free menus, so there’s something for everyone!
Staying in Staffordshire
There are so many health benefits of glamping in nature. To get the best out of your trip to Staffordshire, treat yourself to a luxurious glamping retreat. Choose from a beautifully crafted shepherd’s hut, a cosy cabin with a hot tub, or the picturesque Potting Shed with an outdoor bathtub - all nestled amongst unspoilt countryside. Take a look at our full collection of Staffordshire unique hideaways here.